Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate: SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, or any characters related to said programs.
Major General Jack O'Neill strode through the subterranean hallways of the Cheyenne Mountain Base and felt an overwhelming sense of nostalgia come over him. He couldn't deny he was pleased with the progress he had made in his career and, if nothing else, he was certainly flattered to be employed in the Department of Homeworld Security. But desks and computers weren't his thing and if he laid eyes on another piece of paperwork while he was on this pathetic excuse for a vacation he thought he would end up taking hostages. A working vacation, he scoffed. Who ever heard of such a thing? Really, what was the point? Wasn't it the same thing as a business trip?
Of course, his fondness for Cheyenne Mountain was well known, as was the fact that he still kept a house in the Colorado woods. Unfortunately, his offers to his coworkers to spend an afternoon fishing seemed somehow empty when he no longer spent his down time next to an uninhabited pond. Jack had bought that small house for a reason, though. He sat on the dock and tossed a hook into the still waters so that he would have some time to think - time to stare at the stars through his telescope without wondering what was up there.
He'd come back to Cheyenne Mountain several times for a reason too, and it had little to do with Homeworld Security. Samantha Carter, in all her nerdy glory, had graced these rooms. He'd pushed that thought into the back of his mind countless times, but it was always there, waiting to resurface. The concrete halls seemed empty without her. Jack hadn't wanted to come back to Colorado, but they thought they were doing him a favor since he had jumped at the opportunity so many times. Being at the base seemed wrong when he knew he wouldn't run into her as he passed the corner. Sure, things would feel off if it was Daniel or Teal'c that had taken a position in Atlantis, but Jack wouldn't have flown two thousand miles with a piss poor excuse just to see one of them. Not after only a few months.
He would have turned down the offer. He would rather have spent a week solid in his dingy office staring out a window that might as well not have been there for all the wonderful scenery it provided him of East Thirteenth Street. But he'd won that game of chess with Jennings down the hall and, instead of making the poor kid come to work in nothing but woman's underwear, he'd asked for a favor. So he'd found out that Colonel Samantha Carter was due back today to report on the Atlantis Expedition. A little finessing of the dates of his own trip back and he would be right there waiting for her arrival.
What possessed him to do so was beyond him. Just to see an old friend, he told himself, but was unconvinced. He'd long since admitted to himself that his feelings for the astrophysicist were not entirely platonic. Okay, maybe not at all platonic. Still, they'd silently agreed that there was nothing to be done about it. Neither was willing to sacrifice a career and they shouldn't have to do so. It was just their rotten luck that they'd gone into fields that were not entirely dissimilar. Still, he'd rather it this way than that they had never met. He enjoyed her company even if he couldn't have her and even if she was always spouting some incomprehensible scientific technobabble.
Thinking to drop in on his friend, Jack made a detour into the museum that was the workplace of Dr. Daniel Jackson. The man in question stood leaning over a book, one arm supporting his weight. The other hand was frozen in midair; it seemed he had taken off his glasses and promptly forgotten his arm existed, leaving it where it was. From the lack of acknowledgement, O'Neill assumed Daniel had not noticed his arrival, but he did not seem startled, nor did he even look up, when Jack greeted him.
"Just a second," Daniel replied, gesturing loosely with the glasses in his previously forgotten hand. Placing a StickyNote to mark his point on the page, Daniel replaced his glasses while he straightened. "Jack," he said, delighted, and moved to clear the heap of books and papers from the only other chair in the crowded room. "Have a seat."
"Don't get much company?"
"What?" asked Daniel, but at Jack's gesture to the chair before sitting in it, he understood. "Oh, no. Well, no, I guess not, but even if I did clean up once in a while I'd just get more things to put on the chairs or pile on the floor. It'd be a waste of time, really, that I could spend deciphering these ancient texts. See, SG-15 went to PX-349 on a-"
He shrugged, indicating that he had anticipated a certain lack of interest. "Just thought-"
"Don't care," Jack insisted.
"Okay." After a second's pause, he hoisted his own chair above his head, placed it where he had been standing, and took a seat. Looking expectantly at Jack, he waited for the conversation to ensue. When it was clear Jack didn't know what to say, he took charge, asking what seemed most pertinent. "Have you seen Sam yet?"
Jack felt the muscles in his back tense before he even registered the question. He hated being transparent and it was obvious he wasn't hiding anything now. Daniel was waiting for a response too anxiously for his question to have been any less significant than Jack took it to be. This man knew of the unfulfilled feelings between his two friends and former colleagues.
"No," he replied, clipped. "She's late dialing in." He didn't realize how anxiously he's been waiting to see the brainy blonde until he heard the disappointment in his voice.
"You're not worried about her," Daniel stated, leaving unspoken 'are you?'
"Why would I be worried? We were late dialing in hundreds of times." He shrugged. "'Course, half those times we were being shot at, but we always came out fine. More or less," he added as an afterthought.
Daniel nodded, absent-mindedly studying his own chalk markings on the blackboard across the room. "What are you going to say to her?"
Holding his breath a moment, Jack exhaled when the pressure built in his lungs. This was a mistake. Standing, he answered, "I think I'm going to go fishing."
"Jack," Daniel reproached, knowing he had breached a subject his friend did not care to acknowledge, let alone discuss.
"See ya around," said the older of the two men, casually, as he turned his head over his shoulder and waved.
Colonel Samantha Carter left the debriefing session apologizing once more for her unavoidable lateness. Running a city was a full-time job and, invariably, every time she had a day – or, more likely, a few hours – to herself some emergency arose. The same was true of her quarterly trips back to Earth to debrief her superiors on the progress of the Atlantis expedition.
When the session had ended, Generafl Landry had told her to take some recreational time for the remainder of her two-day trip. She'd have simply gone back to Atlantis after the session and foregone the stretch of time ahead of her, but Landry's "suggestion" was just short of an order considering he could not tell her what to do with her free time.
She supposed she did have a tendency to overwork herself, but she could take it. In fact, she enjoyed having challenges, having responsibilities, and having literal piles of work. It just seemed so much more satisfying when she actually moved those mountains one task at a time and finished jobs that had once seemed unending. It didn't really count as overworking herself if she enjoyed her work, right? Maybe I could use some recreational time, she thought to herself as she unlocked the door of her now barely used car.
Sam sighed as she settled into the driver's seat. The key lay in her hand, waiting to be used, but she took a moment before inserting it into the ignition. Why had she sighed just now? The thought suddenly occurred to her and she couldn't get away without a moment of pondering. It was Jack, she knew. Rather, it was the lack of that man who smelled of spice and of the woods he'd left long ago for some desk job. But had that sigh been relief or disappointment. Shaking her head, she started the car. That was something she'd have to deal with later.
She stopped at the grocery store first; it was a refreshingly normal thing to do. There were often days when she realized her life was something out of a science fiction novel. When she was living in Colorado, it wasn't as noticeable because she still had bills to pay, rented movies, and bought groceries.
She had none of these things in Atlantis.
Of course, she had plenty of work to keep her occupied, but every once in a while she regretted the lack of leisure time. How long had it been since she'd done any work on one of the countless theories she had? So many documents filled her hard drive, but when was the last time she had even opened one of them? Lately, she'd found herself jotting equations on napkins at her meals. There was a small pile of them underneath a paperweight on her desk. She parked her car promising she would do something for herself in the next few days.
What had he been thinking, anyway? For years he'd had feelings for Samantha Carter and for years he'd suppressed them. After that had failed, he'd merely done nothing about them. Things had been going fine that way so far, hadn't they? Why fix something that wasn't broken?
Because he wanted more.
There's nothing to be done about it, Jack tolfd himself, shaking those futilely hopeful thoughts from his mind. Some part of him had realized that while talking to Daniel and so he had left the SGC without waiting for Carter to even arrive - without so much as a hello. Things had stayed the same for so long because one of them would have to make sacrifices for a relationship to work. He couldn't ask her to do that and he wasn't sure he wanted to do it himself.
But how many times had he thought about retiring once more? And was he sure that he wouldn't sink into depression again if he did?
The bob skimmed the docile water, gloating in its stillness that fishing in this barren pond was completely pointless. However, such mockery was equally pointless as Jack was well aware of the fact that there were never, nor would there ever be, fish in this pond. The reward of fishing, in his very enlightened opinion, was not tangible. Fishing was really about the relaxation, the patience required, and the stillness of his surroundings.
Stillness that, at that moment, was being interrupted by the sound of approaching tires on gravel. Sighing in irritation, Jack made absolutely no motion to greet the approaching vehicle. Often it was just some vacationers taking a wrong turn on their way to the campground. If not that, then maybe Daniel and Teal'c were bringing beer and company. Either way, there was no need for him to move from his comfortable seat.
But the car behind him didn't make a U-turn in his driveway, nor did he hear calls of greeting from his friends. Instead, the sounds of crunching gravel ceased, but the hum of the engine persisted a long minute. Finally, curious, Jack craned about in his chair, but in the darkening day, he could only make out a sedan in what appeared to be black.
Jack righted himself in his chair and recast his lure, uninterested.
Pulling out of the parking lot of the grocery store, Sam fought the small twinge of feminine guilt. She hadn't bought much, but everything in her back seat was laden with sugar, fat, and salt. It hadn't seemed like a big deal while she made her selections. After all, these things were impossible to come by off-world. Watching them slide by her on the conveyer belt, though, she'd realized how big a difference a few indulgences could make.
She'd pointed her car in the direction of home, but it wasn't long before her mind had zoned out in defense of the monotony of the road. When it occurred to her that the drive was taking entirely too long, Sam took stock of her surroundings. She had nearly arrived at Jack's pond-side house.
"Oh, jeez," she said to herself. Since when had autopilot been set to this destination? Sighing, she admitted to herself that, ever since her first time fishing on that dock, Sam felt a desire to return to that peaceful place and just sit with her thoughts. That desire had become irresistible, though, with the knowledge that Jack O'Neill had relocated to Washington. She knew he had kept this little house in the woods; he hadn't been able to part with it. Since it had been unoccupied, she hadn't seen the harm in using it for a few moments' solitude on occasion and she never went into the house, not that she had a key.
So instead of braking and turning around, Sam figured a minute on the dock and maybe even a quick walk by the pond would do her some good. As the trees parted around her, though, and the house came into view, her heart slammed into her chest and embarrassment flooded into her. The porch light fought off the impending darkness of dusk and a familiar figure sat on a disintegrating lawn chair with his feet up on a cooler she presumed was full of beer.
Knowing it was impossible she would go unnoticed, she just pulled her car up and put it in park before gripping the wheel tightly and resting her head on it in exasperation without even bothering to turn off the engine. Briefly, she thought about pounding her head on the steering wheel in front of her, but that would do no good and would likely give her a headache. Thinking quickly, Sam decided her options were to stay or to drive off, but what if he had recognized her car or if he had seen her? And if he had seen her, how could she explain leaving without saying hello? How could she explain coming in the first place? Those explanations were further complicated by the fact that she'd had no idea he was even in Colorado to begin with. Steeling herself, Sam turned off the engine, threw her keys in her purse and stepped out of the car and into the cooling night air.